Tag Archives: hills

Quiet and Tears

Been involved in a lot locally recently.

We’ve had an exhibition of a local artist’s work Robert Noble, who died 100 years ago and is buried in the church yard. He deserves to be much better known. I’ve been helping in compiling slide shows and creating a large introduction board for the show and exhibition. The exhibition seems to be popular, and in the process there have been many paintings that have been discovered. I’ve managed to get to the exhibition a couple of times and it is lovely. Hopefully I’ll get back again before it ends.

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Robert Noble Exhibition – information

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Robert Noble Exhibition

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Another more serious event was our Drama Group’s moving production of “The Women of Lockerbie” by an American playwright Deborah Breevort. It tells the story seven years after the terrorist bombing of the Pan Am flight over Lockerbie. The women of the village tried to stop the clothes and artefacts of the victims from being destroyed so they could wash and return them to the families. They had been kept for that long as forensic evidence. The play is unusual as it is done like a Greek tragedy, with a chorus of women. I was in charge of the lighting for the show and on the last night we had a standing ovation, with many of the audience visibly moved to tears. It was a privilege to be part of it all.

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Women of Lockerbie – set

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Women of Lockerbie – the chorus

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Women of Lockerbie – confrontation

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Women of Lockerbie – the release

The cycling recently has been wonderful, though I find myself full of tears for a different reason. I need to wear specs so cannot wear sports glasses, so I find that at speed my eyes water a great deal. When I get back my eyes are slightly crusted with salt, which isn’t too good. I’ve thought about various solutions – fur fabric round the sides & tops of my specs (may look slightly weird or Groucho Marx like), a visor, safety over specs etc. but haven’t come to any conclusion yet. But I am glad my tear ducts still work well. I’ve been racking up the miles and height this year and enjoying climbing the hills on the bike locally so much. One of the recent highlights was a 52 mile ride with over 6,000 feet of climbing after which I still felt great. I’m gearing up nicely for a much longer overnighter in just over a month’s time.

But there have been other moments too. The other week I had a time when I was going quickly with the wind behind. I reached that magic moment when, for just a wee while, I was going the same speed as the wind. Sitting in this bubble of air everything went quiet. No wind noise, no traffic noise, the hum of the pedals almost muted and smooth tarmac with the tyres smoothly rolling along. To me, on the rare occasions when all this comes together, it just seems a form of Nirvana – the soul seems at rest. As usual, a brief moment and then it’s away. Ah well, here’s to the next time.

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A steep one up ahead

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One of the many hills and a hairpin

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Sheep lie in the road up ahead

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Bog cotton on the tops

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A rare greyish day

Looks like our good weather is going to continue for a while yet, off and on, so it seems the legs will continue getting an airing.

Another Month Gone By

What an amazing year so far, not even the end of March and I’m almost up to 2,000 miles of mainly joyous cycling, plus a new bike to play with.

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Showing off again? Fat & mountain bike together.

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Above the estuary

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He’s behind you, somewhere

The last few days have been splendid, with that evil wind finally decreasing and the sun coming out to play more. I’ve even been cycling in shorts again, lounging in the outside chairs at the cafe stop and overheating some of the time!

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Cafe stops & bare legs in March!

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Mainly blue skies and sunshine as well

As usual, shortly after my birthday I cycled my birthday miles – 69. It was wild and windy, but I managed to find some shelter in the bunch for part of the time on the upwind section. Back down out of the hills and along the coast we flew and quite near home I had averaged 16.5 mph, but was still 10 miles short. So on down to Dunbar and then a wrong decision, back home via the hills and into the wind again solo, oh how the average plummeted! Ah well!

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Into my 70th year on earth

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Some of the gang

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The new machine

There’s been some great rides too, both solo and with companions.

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Climbing one of the steep ones

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The hill fort caption board (see photo above for a view from above)

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Over the tops

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The road is there somewhere

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An adder escaping into the heather

I bought a new bike for my birthday, as my other one was wearing out after much use & abuse over the last 9 years. I went over to Fife to collect it, planning to cycle home via the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh. The ride up to the bridge was pretty desperate, with wild, wild winds and gusts. When I got to the bridge it was closed to lorries, pedestrians and cyclists, so back into Inverkeithing, onto the train station and as I wheeled the bike onto the platform the train was pulling in, yippee. I secured my less new looking bike & settled down for a short journey over the Forth rail bridge to Dalmeny on the other side. Whilst purchasing a ticket I was told that the train didn’t stop there, so my cycle journey was shortened by getting off at the outskirts of Edinburgh.

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The new road bridge over the Forth, from the train, on the way out

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Forth Road Bridge closed because of the gale

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An unexpected train journey for the new bike

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Looking out to the Forth Estuary

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Whoops – discovered this fault when I got home, no wonder the front gear change was clunky!!

I went right through the centre of the city, dodging cars, buses, taxis and trams etc. Once back into East Lothian I flew along in a little calm bubble as I was going the same speed as the wind.

And how has the bike been? Magicke. It has front suspension, which is great on our dodgy roads, the handling is superb, the disc brakes brilliant and all the hidden cables etc. make it a joy to keep clean. I’ve had it now for over 300 miles and the only change was putting on my old Brookes saddle, I just didn’t get on with the Specialized one, despite tinkering with the adjustment. The suspension is sometimes a bit clunky at times but works well and makes a difference to my tender ageing parts.

On foot, there have been some gorgeous days walking as well, though we missed seeing a kingfisher by a minute or so the other day. Plenty of other flora and fauna to entertain though.

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Seen on our walks . . . .

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Another recent highlight was going to a talk by Grame Obree, former hour world champion amongst many other achievements. He was ‘pure brilliant’, outlining his background, successes, downsides and personal philosophy with humour and truthfulness. It was a very enlightening evening, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to.

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Examining “The Beastie” at Graeme Obree’s talk

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At Graeme Obree’s talk ‘The Beastie’, how he fits in I’ve little idea

So, now Spring is rize, hopefully fewer layers and some good longish rides await.

Since I wrote this (tempting fate?) I’ve been off the bike for a week, but the cough, stiffness and aches are diminishing so should be out soon.

Winter throws it all at you

It’s been quite a winter here so far. Temperatures have been bouncing around all over the place, -2°c one day +11°C the next. It’s also been blowing a hooley one day and calm as can be the next. So what has that meant for cycling? Basically unless it is icy, just get happed up and out the door, then turn the pedals.

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Sunset ride and on with the snow, though near home

It helps that it is so gorgeous round here, wether it be the waves with white horses pounding on the sea in the bays, the farmers going about their business in the fields or the dusting of snow on the hills.

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Rainbows near home

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Up in the hills

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One of the ‘interesting’ roads up high

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Below the hills with sunset approaching

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Another dodgy local road

We had a gale recently with cold sleet lower down. I had previously got out my skis for a failed cross country attempt up in the Lammermuir hills. This time I was lucky. I got up to the start before the reservoir and put on my skis beside the car, then away. Conditions were amazing considering there had been no snow at all two days before. Hardly any wind, deep blue sky and not too cold. I took a fun route up, the wax on my skis just gripping enough to get me up the first slopes. I then came across the wee feeder dam with its water channel leading off. Enough snow to pop along it for a mile or so. As I skied gently along the grouse were calling, making that sound like small motorbikes. I skied round the reservoir then fitted the skins for the steeper ascent to the tops. The snow was slightly crusted but I was soon up above the valleys, only breaking through the crust occasionally. It was glorious up high, calm, views for miles and white all round the horizon. A day to dream about? I only saw two folk out and passed only one, pausing for a wee chat. The descent was ‘interesting’, a few quick turns, but with a mixture of heather end breakable crust it was mainly a stop, a kick turn of my freeheel skis and a scoot off again on a long travers. I somehow managed to ski down, with the occasional slow speed tumble. Just a wee bit along from the car I had to unclip as the patchy snow lower down had decided it was time to melt.

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Hare tracks near the start

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Collecting water for the reservoir

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The viaduct just waiting to be skied

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Not too much snow low down

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Getting higher, with Hopes reservoir below

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A distant wind farm – Crystal Rigg

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Looking back at my ski tracks

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At the summit for today

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I came down the snowy bit in the sun, snow had melted now lower down

Next day, another storm and almost all the snow had disappeared. Sometimes you just have to grasp the opportunity!

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Up in the Lammermuirs again, 2 days after skiing, where’s the snow?

A couple of days later we were up over the hills again, this time on our bikes. It was blowing hard again, but we dug in and ploughed our way up Humbie for coffee and scones. Then with the wind behind us Terry & I peeled off to climb over the Rigg – a locally renowned section. We knew we would see plenty of folk as an audax was on and going that way. After scooting fast along the back roads, pushed by the winds, we came across bunches of cyclists heading upwards. We joined them and pottered slowly up. On the steepest section, (17°), I was hit by a ferocious gust and stopped dead with a quick dismount. I was fairly puggled anyway from fighting the wind uphill, so rested for a bit to regain my breath, once there was a slight lessening I mounted again and carried on to the top. The descent was fabulous, whizzing down at 45 mph. On the way we had met other friends so we pottered along, more or less together , chatting away. So a good 65 mile ride, not bad for February?

How do I keep warm on these cold days? Plenty of layers. Above 2 or 3°, 3 layers on top, double fleece gloves with oversize cycle gloves on top, buff and head cap too. Breathable waterproof socks over solid soled cycling shoes with no vents and bright pink neoprene overshoes. No real fancy expensive clothing, just stuff that does the job for me. If it gets below -2º another layer on top, winter cycling shoes and a ninja style neoprene face mask and bright yellow, horrible to us mitts. The final tip is to put shoes, socks and gloves on the radiator to warm up well before I go out. Works a treat and makes all the difference to me. I can cycle easily for 4-5 hours if I need to, and my circulation is rubbish!

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November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

Lastly a treat coming up. I’ve been looking at a newer bike as mine is now 8 years old. The new Specialized Roubaix Expert is looking just the bike for me, so I’ve been enquiring after deals – I’ll let you all now how it goes.

On a final note, there was a march through Edinburgh expressing our distaste and fear of Trump’s actions, as America affects us all. We joined in and it was good to see the home made posters appearing.img_8599img_3541img_3554And a wee antidote to politics from my ride today (2nd March)

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Snowdrops in the woods at a ‘comfort’ break

A Wee Bit of a Ride

Early September – it was time for the Tour of Tweeddale again.

Tweeddale is in the Scottish Borders and is a fabulous venue for cycling of all sorts. I’ve done this event for the last five years, since it started. The distance in the past has varied from 85 to 99 miles but this time it was just over the 100 mile mark.

So having done what I hoped was sufficient training, I met up with some cycling pals ready for the off from Peebles. Another couple joined us on the line so a nice group of five were ready to go. I had stayed in the town the night before so had till 7.30 to wake up and get ready. In previous years, it was over an hour to drive down, so usually up at 5.30 to 6 am and I’m not good at mornings.

It was a chilly start, but not desperate and we were soon away and getting warmed up. The first section headed eastwards down beside the River Tweed on the back roads of the Tweed  Way. It was gorgeous, zooming up and mainly down with the wind behind and good views as we sped along. After the first 20 miles we left the Tweed Valley and climbed up and over to descend towards Selkirk.

We bypassed the town and headed for The Swire, otherwise know as the Witchy Knowe, the first real and steepest climb of the day.

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First food stop, bottom of ‘The Swire’

A quick food stop and then on up.

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Ronnie replenishing

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Theo at the bottom of the Swire

A lovely climb, reasonably steep but at a fairly constant gradient, and the countryside looked fabulous in the sun.

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Heading up the Swire from the north

Up and over the cattle grid and a swoop down to the next valley.

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Top of the Witchy Knowe

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Bottom of the Swire

In a wee while came Berrybush, another lovely climb, less steep but extensive forestry at the top.

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A wee break before the climb – the bottom of Berrybush

We hurtled back down and arrived at the Gordon Arms for the next food stop. Ah, the soup – just brilliant. The volunteers were great, the food stops full of lovely stuff and some chat with other riders in the sun, bliss or what.

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The Gordon Arms, 2nd food stop

Then back on the bikes to trundle down to Moffat, except for one thing. The wind was head on and mush stronger than expected, having been forecast to come up later. So it was a bit of a gruelling ride down with us swapping leads while the others sheltered behind. But, as compensation, the scenery was fabulous, with the gentle border hills vivid green in the sun, St. Marys Loch glinting and outlining the sailing boats busy out racing and the occasional bursts of chat when a lull in the wind allowed.

We rattled through Moffat, just stopping at road junctions, before heading for the last real climb of the day – The Devil’s Beeftub. This was the long one, 6 1/2 miles of climbing ascending just over 1000 feet, but not too steep and highly enjoyable, especially with the wind behind us now. After the climb it was a rapid descent for over 25 miles back to Peebles, going so well we even ignored the food stop on the way.

So at the end of the trip a great ride together.

ps. I am working on the video – you have been warned!!

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortège to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

Fast (for me) riding, Portugal and back again

I’m not usually a quick rider, except downhill, but one evening just under a month ago, I just felt great and pushed up the heart rate.

It was misty but I kept pushing those pedals and just whistled along. Just over 25 miles and with 1000 feet of climbing  and lots of twists, turns and road junctions I managed just over 17 mph with an average heart rate of 145 bpm.

So, well chuffed and I felt good at the end.

But enough of stats!

Four days later I was in Portugal. I had arranged bike hire with from the same hirer I had used last year. There was a bit of a hitch that time, and another this time. The hirer had not read my email properly with my change of mobile number, so at the prearranged time at 9 am, no call, no bike. I managed to finally get in touch and the bike eventually got to me at 3 pm. Being from northern climes it was still way too hot to contemplate going out. Later that evening the temperature had cooled down a bit and it was time to go. A short 15 mile ride, with temperature averaging 23º. I went up into the local town of Alvor.

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Trying to get up the High Street, Alvor

I managed to get a bit(?) mislaid, but landed up down at the sea front.

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Alvor – at the lagoon

I decided to head back along the boardwalk, an interesting choice rattling and bumping along on 23mm tyres, so a wee bit of an adventure for several miles.

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The boardwalk

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Under the boardwalk, still a bit of a way to the cliffs

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Rock Coves, Prianhia

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Beaches at Prianhia

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Algarve sunset

I tootled around, on the back roads as much as I could, doing around 30 miles a day for the next 7 days. It was my sister’s 70th and the family had gathered to celebrate so I could only get out early in the morning. Reasonably cool first thing but the temperatures rose later in the morning, reaching 33º on my last ride.

The riding was very varied, the main roads, when I couldn’t avoid them, were busy but the drivers were mostly good though there were one or two hairy moments. The country roads were brilliant, mostly well surfaced with a couple of exceptions. Down by the coast it was very dry & dusty, quite a parched landscape. In the foothills there were orange groves then higher up eucalyptus plantations and some native woodlands, much cooler to cycle through out of the blaze of the sun.

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A colourful water tower, well lit at night

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Mont Fóia creating its own weather

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I manage to get mislaid in Portamao, my track looking like a heap of spaghetti, but the next day I managed to thread my way through more successfully.

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Portimao

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Portimao marina

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Them be pirates, argh

The ride to Silves was a bit hurried, but some of the wee hills on the route were good fun, despite problems with the lower gears. I adjusted them later and all was OK after that.

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Up above Silves

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Silver castle and cathedral

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The white bridge at Silves

The last day of cycling  was the best. Up to the top of the highest hill in the Algarve, Mont Fóia. I had been up here last year and was looking forward to renewing the acquaintance. The summit is at 902 metres (2,959 ft) and you climb up from the sea to the top, with little respite. The time before it was happed (shrouded) in mist and I didn’t see much. This time it was clear, but that meant hot, hot, hot by the time I got up there. The main climb of over 2,500 feet  is 12.5 miles long at an average gradient of 4% average, but with steep ramps up to 14%. The views got better and better as I climbed, with Storks & their young perched on telegraph poles, snakes roadkill beneath my tyres but very few riders, mainly folk going to work or shopping on their ‘sit up and beg’ bikes.

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One of the many storks, with young

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Snake road kill

So I climbed to Monchique, the village below the mountain. I didn’t stop there but carried on up the final 4.5 mile summit climb. It had steepened up too. Then I heard a puffing sound & a creaking gradually getting nearer. It was a young English guy on a slightly battered mountain bike. We eventually seemed to be going at a similar speed so teamed up and worked our way up the hill, mainly into the wind. At the top the view was spectacular in every direction, apart from the mess of masts and military establishments on the summit as well as a grotty looking cafe.

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A well earned summit rest

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My companion up the final slopes

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South to the Atlantic

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Military occupation of Mont Fóia

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Coming down off Mont Fóia looking north

My companion on the last bit of the climb had descended before me, so after a wee break for water and a bite it was time to go. Except for a brief time in Monchique I didn’t go under 20 mph all the way down, reaching almost 40 mph at one point. It was so exhilarating. By the time I reached Portamao the temperature had rocketed and the traffic increased so I made my way circumspectly back to base. An excellent 47 miles of riding with just that short break up high.

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The road to Mont Fóia (kms)

So a good 8 days of riding, despite the unwelcome (for me) heat.

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I thought this tree was wonderful

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Sunset by the sea

After much merriment, good company, food and drink it was back home to 10º average for the next ride, but it was welcome. At least I could dress up for it and not have to smother myself with factor 50 and be laden with water bottles. The next biggish ride was a 60 miler down into the Scottish borders. Still coldish, and it totally poured down at Duns, but warmed up a tiny bit on the way back. A strange thing happened, the Garmin stopped recording the height gain, while still totting up the mileage. At the end of the ride my Garmin had read just over 4,000 feet of ascent while the other saw over 5,400. One of my pals said he had read that there’s a wee hole in the bottom of the Garmin that allows the barometer to sense the pressure. When it is such wet weather this can block and stops the sensor from registering the height properly. Sure enough, when I got home & took the cover off a stream of water poured out from it – problem solved. Strava kindly corrected the data for me at the click of a button and it went up to over 5,400. My Garmin has been fine since.

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Back home to the mist & murk

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A wet Duns – Statue commemorating Wojtek the bear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_(bear)

Since then it has warmed up to a reasonable 16º C so shorts again and some varied riding, with a 50 miler two days ago with the older yoofs retiree gang.

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Our local volcanic hill, Traprain Law (Law is Scots for hill)

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Faside Castle, yet another one visited by Mary Queen of Scots

And I thought that I wrote I would hold back on the stats!! I hope the pics make up for it!

Nothing Much

Just felt like writing a bit. So here goes.

“Spring is sprung, the grass is riz” in the words of E.E. Cummings. So the weather has gone crazee, as ever. Mid April and snow, though just wee suggestions of it, but a dusting higher up. Before that I was down to 2 layers and hoping for shorts, that’s on the back burner again. Managing to get in the miles though, some warm, some cold, some dry, some wet and some very, very wet.

The first ride after the longish one was out with the Sunday crew, 51 miles in a whole slew of weather, but at least coffee & cake was on the menu.

After that it was much better, grinning like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, warm & dry once I’d climbed up into an inversion above the murk with lambs in the fields & skylarks yelling from above.

Then came our usual Tuesday ride  with the gang of FOSSILs (Fine Old Senior Souls In Lycra)  I ride with every week. Coffee stops and scones are just about compulsory. Forecast was not fine, but some were better than others. Half way round we were nearing the cafe, but cold & drouchit we passed on the stop and headed for home. So 32 wet, wet and chilly miles that took my gear a long while to dry out.

The last one was just gorgeous with the compensation of a glorious sunset, pheasants dotting about the place and a hare bounding up the road in front of me. If I wanted variety then living here gives it all.

Today was a wee bit different, nearby is a wake boarding centre, so we pottered down for a wee wander. As a bonus the local primroses were out in the woods and the bluebells just showing the mass of blue that is to come.

As ever a few pics:

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A steep hairpin

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Round & down

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Topping out

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Looking north, better get hame before the light goes

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Sunset with no rain or snow

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Cherry blossom in the sunset

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Fun at Foxlake

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Wakeboarding the jumps